ABOUT PAUL STACEY
I have gardened all my life and I was hugely fortunate to have a grandfather that taught me about gardening and wildlife often trekking all over the Sussex countryside to find butterflies and wildflowers. At age 14 I was caring for a 5 acre garden as a Saturday job as well as caring for the garden at home. At 20 I was assistant head gardener at a golf course.
This passion took me on to a BSC (Hons) in Horticulture and an MSc in Landscape Management, where I was fortunate to work for Barnsdale Gardens and Adam Frost as part of my industrial placement year, this was the former home of BBC Gardeners World. From here I completed my degree travelling round the UK and Holland to undertake research my National Award winning thesis from the Landscape Research Group on naturalistic planting and its application in public open space. I picked up a number of awards for my skills in landscaping.
Whilst at Writtle College I led two student teams delivering show gardens at the Hampton Court Flower Show in 2002 and 2003 winning silver and gold respectively. I also achieved Chartered Status of the Institute of Horticulture.
From here I spent a short time in landscape contracting before moving in to the management of public open spaces, parks and gardens where I have worked for the past 16 years delivering green flag award winning services – the national standard for parks and open spaces. Within this role I have led a number of complex construction and landscaping projects, and managed large diverse portfolios of land and amenities covering parks, gardens, woodland, and nature reserves improving the environment, public access and peoples health.
I volunteer for the Royal Horticultural Society assessing plant trials and as an assessor for the green plan it initiative bringing young people in to horticulture.
My blog is based around my adventures in horticulture both personal and professional. My garden at home is a 10 x 11m south east facing plot on a new build housing estate where I live with my partner Sarah, two children and Wilfred the cat. Over the past 6 years I have been developing our garden. Having a completely blank canvas, where the context of the landscape was obliterated by the development has been more challenging than I thought as there was nothing, no context, nothing to work with just a 10 x 11m patch of Wealden clay, adjoining 3 storey high houses and 6’ high fence panels.
When we moved here I felt a great sense of responsibility to heal the landscape because of the scale of the development which was formerly farm land with many 300-400 year oaks around the estate and lots of remnant ancient woodland within a mile of two of where we live, and not far from the world leading Knepp rewilding project. Knepp Wildland
My approach to gardening is one that focusses on being sustainable by working with nature, ecology, organic practices and with the art and science of gardening to provide a place we can enjoy, a place to teach our children to grow things, grow food, have a visual spectacle and provide a home for nature. I have a passion for meadows and I have rewilded many a lawn and open space in my professional life along with the new perennial movement which has seen an explosion in the choice of herbaecous plants to create sustainable ecologically beneficial plantings. Both provide me with much joy as it’s where I feel the greatest connection with nature in the garden.
I also have an aim of being able to go out and pick lunch several times a week from the garden through spring, summer and autumn. I rarely get to eat the soft fruit as I often find my daughter has snuck out and eaten it.
I was brought up gardening on clay so it holds no fear for me and it grows good stuff, as with everything gardening it all starts with understanding your soil and how to treat it. I garden on a peat free basis and following a couple of years dabbling with the ‘no dig’ idea and I have now fully embraced this approach, where the garden is just mulched with home made compost and I leave the cultivation to all the soil life that exists and grows through this approach; worms, bacteria, invertebrates etc. If ‘no dig’ is of interest read up on Charles Dowding – a market gardener expert in the method. No Dig Organic Gardening - Charles Dowding | No Dig
I have managed to fit a lot in to a small space, a pleached hornbeam hedge – to match the surrounding woodlands, two small ponds, three 8’ x 4’ vegetable beds, espaliered and cordon fruit trees, a meadow, a lawn, a woodland garden, pergola, herbaceous borders, numerous pots providing herbs and home for tender perennials, a terrace, patio, greenhouse and playhouse with green roof, various bug and bird boxes and a few bits of topiary for winter structure. I have tried to maintain a discipline with the planting by controlling the amount of plants used but like many I have too many plants than I have space for! I use a variety of native, cultivated native species and non native species
We have frogs, a newt, leaf cutter bees, and many visiting species such as the purple hairstreak butterfly, hoverflies, bees, wasps, beetles, ladybirds, birds, butterflies, moths, slugs and snails and great worm populations. So from the bare patch of soil I started with, the ecology and rhythm of the garden has really started to build along with the character of the garden. Watching the nature arrive in the garden has been brilliant.
Is garden ever finished, No, it’s a process of ecology and art which constantly evolves.